To celebrate National Coming Out Day and hopefully raise money to cover travel expenses, Juneau’s Pride Chorus will present an evening of selected gay and lesbian short films, culled from some of the country’s leading film festivals, Tuesday, Oct. 11, at the Goldtown Nickelodeon. The show begins at 6:30 and features a brief Coming Out Day-themed Pride Chorus performance.
Admission is free; donations are accepted and encouraged.
Internationally observed every Oct. 11, Coming Out Day commemorates the 1988 Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender march on Washington, in which 500,000 people demonstrated in support of gay rights.
Pride Chorus isn’t alone in presenting a commemoration. Groups worldwide host various events for Coming Out Day, hoping to raise awareness of the international LGBT community. Interesting trivia: noted pop artist Keith Haring drew the National Coming Out Day logo; Newt Gingrich’s half-sister Candace has been its spokesperson since 1995.
“It’s basically a day when people are encouraged to live the way they want to live,” said Leslie Wood, conductor, director and Pride Chorus founding member.
“The more people who come out, the more run-of-the-mill being gay becomes, until it’s not even an issue anymore.”
Coming Out Day assumes additional meaning for Pride Chorus, Wood explained. Its very first rehearsal took place on Coming Out Day ’97.
“It’s kind of our birthday,” she said, noting that 10 founding members remain in the chorus, out of 40 total. “So that would make our short film night a birthday party? Hm. Well, there will be snacks, so, I guess?”
Inspiration for the selected short films night came from a similar event held last year by PFLAG (Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays), which Pride Chorus helped sponsor.
“We thought someone should do something for Coming Out Day, and a film night seemed a perfect fit,” Wood said.
She describes the selection of films as sort of a “best of” gay and lesbian cinema from the national festival circuit, with “three or four gay, three or four lesbian” films culled from festivals such as Frameline, Outfest, Iris Prize Festival, FilmOut, Palm Springs International ShortFest and Sundance.
The films share a loose “coming out” theme, and also touch on the foibles of dating, adventures in baby-making and other strange happenings of life and love. During intermission, Pride Chorus, itself, will sing several songs, also highlighting similar themes.
The selected shorts night stands as Pride Chorus’ first in a series of fundraisers, in hopes of sending a chorus to the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses (GALA) 2012 International Chorus Festival in Denver next July. GALA holds its international festival every four years; if Pride Chorus can raise the funds, this will be the first international GALA festival it’s ever attended.
The GALA International Chorus Festival is the largest event for an international association made up of nearly 10,000 vocalists in more than 100 mixed, male and female ensembles around the world. In addition to the short films, Pride Chorus will screen excerpts from past GALA festivals.
“It would be a big deal for us to go,” Wood said.
Pride Chorus lays claim to the title of Juneau’s only year-round chorus, not counting church choirs. It rehearses every Tuesday from 5:30-7 p.m. at Resurrection Lutheran Church, open to the (female) public—to listen or to sing.
In fact, Pride Chorus prides itself, no pun intended, on its unrestrictive admission policy, which does not limit membership by audition, voice part or even sexual orientation.
“You don’t have to be LGBT to be a member of Pride Chorus, just supportive of our causes,” Wood said, who estimates that a third of the women in the chorus are lesbian, a third bisexual and a third, allies.
“You don’t have to be able to sing, either, but it helps.”
Other future Pride Chorus fundraising events include more movie nights, its annual concert in April and something Wood described as “musical dessert.” Pride Chorus also performs at Folk Fest every year, and sometimes for World AIDS Day.
Pride Chorus does not have a website—“we actually just wrote a grant to fund building one”—but you can find it on Facebook.
“I think it’s a great way to celebrate Coming Out Day,” said Wood. “Although, these films are really fun, no matter what day it is.”